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A Doll's House, Read Again And Again

When a theatre invites you to produce a play of your choice because of the success of your previous production, you don’t take it lightly.

So, after innumerable drinks in The Curtains Up pub (the one upstairs from the Barons Court Theatre), director and producer Kevin Russell announced he fancied doing a classic for a change. The discussion about which one lasted weeks.

The process truly began when I received a text from Kevin. He had found the play and was extremely excited. It touches on feminism, equality, obsession and, even, violence in the home. Written in 1879, Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House centres around something unthinkable in its day: a woman putting herself first - above family and faith.

The central issues of the story have always resonated, one reason why it still appeals to modern audiences. News from the theatre owner saying it has never been performed there meant it was suddenly all systems go - the first step was to decide upon which version to perform.

I’ve got a copy which has been gathering dust since my student days. It was translated by Michael Meyer nearly fifty years ago. It was a perfect starting point. Meyer’s is a blank canvas upon which we can perhaps add our own touches, needing to adapt the play to work in the venue’s intimate space.

A quick scan of bookshelves both real and virtual immediately provided other translations. Copies were borrowed from friends and libraries, some purchased from bookshops or discovered in charity shops.

We devoured them all and it was no surprise to discover that each version had a visceral effect upon us both - the Marmite test so to speak. Did we like it or loath it?

This was the pattern at the end of last year. Each translation was debated every time we met, for consistency, at The Curtains Up. Most were shelved leaving us with three versions for serious consideration: Simon Stephens’ from 2012, Bryony Lavery’s from 2004 and Nicholas Rudall’s from 1999.

We applied for the performance rights for all three. Rudall’s came through first and, after demanding details about ourselves (feeling like we’re auditioning for her) Bryony Lavery is now offering her version. Although more versions do keep grabbing our attention this part of the process is coming to a close. The focus now is meeting designers and searching for the image for the poster...

Looking back over the last few months, though, I have found the experience quite exhilarating and educational. Who knew there were so many translations? I have critically appraised ten versions with ten different visions. The tables will be turned later this year when all eyes will be upon us.

New Dreams Theatre’s production of A Doll’s House will be at The Barons Court Theatre in London from 3rd to 22nd November 2015. Further details can be found at - Twitter: @kevinnewdreams

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